The School of Hard Knocks: Concussions

Let’s talk about the most common head injury, the concussion. Though the term has been much talked about lately, many people are still not fully aware of what a concussion is. In simple terms, it is a brain injury caused by a blow to the head or to the body resulting in a force being applied to the brain as it moves around inside the skull. Concussions can occur with either mild or severe blows to the head. Some head injuries may appear to be mild but recent research is revealing that concussions can have serious, long-term effects, especially repeat concussions. The brain is injured when the brain moves around within the skull. The brain cells all fire at once, much like a seizure. What does this do to your brain? In the immediate aftermath of a concussion, there may be some structural damage at the microscopic level with some cell death. However, the primary problem is often related to chemicals in the cells that have survived the incident. When there is a sufficient blow to the brain, the membranes of the affected nerve cells in the brain are stretched or twisted, which changes the way those cells send signals to one another, thus the phenomenon of seeing stars if the affected area is involved with sight or ringing in the ears if the affected area is involved with hearing. Until the chemical balance is restored, those neurons are unable to fire again. In a protective reflex of sorts, surrounding cells begin to shut down. If enough cells become depressed, confusion, amnesia, and even loss of consciousness result. Meanwhile, in an attempt to recover, the brain starts using up massive amounts of blood sugar and will continue to do so for as long as 30 minutes. This overuse of this glucose results in the production of lactic acid which, in excess amounts, inhibits brain function. A demand for glucose by the brain, such as when one is studying, causes an increase in blood flow to the brain. When the brain is injured, it can no longer regulate blood flow. This process continues unabated for 3-4 days but fully normal blood flow may not resume until 10 or more days have passed. Consequently, at precisely the time the brain needs extra fuel to repair itself, it ends up getting less. While the immediate chemical reaction of the brain to the concussion is brief and generally completed in 30 minutes, it takes days for the individual cell and the brain as a whole to restore that chemical balance which was lost so quickly. Until that balance is restored, the brain doesn’t work as well and is particularly vulnerable to re-injury.

If you or someone you know has suffered a concussion, get it checked out immediately.

The next few minutes, hours, and days are crucial, so don’t risk further injury to your brain. Athens Brain & Spine specializes in concussion management. Our team has extensive experience with these injuries and stays in the forefront of concussion research and treatment. We will help you recover quickly and get back to work and play sooner by working to develop a personalized recovery plan. Contact us today if you need concussion management in Athens, GA.